While many students were being punked and pranked last April Fools’ day, InterVarsity chapters in the Southeast region were getting pumped up for the “Fools for Christ” evangelism pilot project. InterVarsity staff and student leaders were challenged to have at least two conversations with friends about the gospel message of Jesus Christ during April.
During April Kasey Whisel, a senior marine science major and InterVarsity student leader, continued her weekly Bible study at the University of Tampa. One week only one girl showed up, freshman Teddi Santos, a regular attendee. The impromptu one-on-one Bible study allowed her friend to ask personal theological questions. Together they considered what it would be like to stand before God in heaven. What would they do, or say?
“She said she felt kind of intimidated, and wouldn’t know what to do or say. So Kasey took the opportunity to share the gospel,” InterVarsity staff member Michelle Verrill said.
Kasey led Teddi through the bridge diagram, which illustrates the message of salvation through Jesus. “She knew the traditions of the church she grew up in, but I don’t think she ever understood who Jesus was until then,” Kasey said. That night Teddi made the decision to follow Jesus.
Michelle, now on staff at the University of Texas, said that the “Fools for Christ” initiative helped rejuvenate evangelism within the chapter at the University of Tampa.
“They said, ‘Wow, you mean we’re in this with students from all over the region, and when we share the gospel with someone we’re not just us on our own?’” Michelle said. “It was kind of an act of God, their hearts really started changing.”
University of Louisville
On the first day of April a student named Elizabeth made a decision to follow Christ at the University of Louisville (U of L). She had met for GIGs (Groups Investigating God—an investigative Bible study) several times throughout the semester.
“We were looking at John 6, where Jesus says that he is the Bread of Life,” recalled InterVarsity staff member Kim Blackford. “I asked her what she thought and she said, ‘It sounds like Jesus is saying all you have to do is come to him. But that sounds like it’s too good to be true.’ I told her, ‘No, no, it’s not too good to be true, it’s true.’ I asked her, ‘Is this something you want?’ She said that she felt like there was a weight on her. She felt like it was too hard to follow the Lord. I said, ‘you don’t have to have that weight you know.’ Then she gave her life to the Lord.”
The three U of L InterVarsity chapters collaborated for a week of evangelism outreach events in April. They hosted open-air preaching events, co-sponsored a Bible study with a fraternity, and displayed two Proxē stations (a guided experience using interactive art, questions, and conversation which clearly explains the gospel).
“I really grew doing the Proxē stations,” InterVarsity staff member Chelsea Yu said. “We had lots of students who walked through them and wanted to go through the whole thing and hear the gospel message. So, we actually got to share the gospel message with a lot of people.”
One student was reluctant to walk through the Proxē station, but said that he felt God was letting him know it was time to live for him. Although he did not make a decision to follow Christ there, follow-up by InterVarsity staff member Greg Wilburn the next week revealed a newfound commitment.
“When I talked to him he said, ‘When you were talking about trusting in Christ and putting all your trust in Him, and He’ll wash away yours sins, it really just hit me. I just need to trust. Since then I’ve just been trusting in the Lord. ’”
Response in Atlanta
Tony Gatewood, InterVarsity staff member at Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta, saw 15 students give their lives to Christ at a chapel service held at Spelman near the beginning of May. Gatewood said that the service was so moving the chaplain herself was tearing up, and gave an alter call. “We had 15 student volunteers for the chapel service; every one of them received someone into the Lord.”
Gatewood said that students in his chapters were very active in evangelism most of the semester. “I would say that they share their faith at least once a week. One student shared his faith for the whole spring with two guys who were atheists.”
Kentucky area director Eric Peterson organized the “Fools for Christ” Harvest initiative along with Southeast regional director Bruce Alwood.
“The goals were really about having staff do evangelism and increase the evangelism temperature in the region,” Eric said. More than 300 conversations about Christ took place last April. “Staff trained their students in how to do evangelism, and they got their students involved with it too. I think we had pretty good buy-in.”
“It was daunting, but well worth it.” Bruce said. In the midst of the initiative he was able to personally contact 64 out of 67 staff in the region to hear their experiences and to pray with them. He noticed a significant increase in the number of students showing interest in joining Bible studies because of the initiative. “It seemed like the majority of the positive fruit was related to students wanting to be in GIGs.”
Another gospel presentation tool
As a part of the “Fools for Christ” project, the region introduced and encouraged the use of James Choung’s gospel presentation outline. James is an InterVarsity area director in San Diego and is introducing his presentation through an InterVarsity Press book called True Story, as well as through videos on YouTube. The outline is designed to challenge non-Christians and Christians alike to follow Christ more actively by including a social justice perspective that particularly resonates with today’s college students.
Michelle Verrill found it very helpful in reaching one student that she’d been sharing the gospel with for two-and-a-half years. “She said, ‘You’re not going to draw the bridge diagram again.’ And I said, ‘No, we’re going to do something new.’ We just went over the new gospel presentation and she was like, ‘Wow, you really mean it when you say God cares about these things, I really see that now.’ It was the closest she ever came to saying yes to following Jesus.”
Eric said that the gospel presentation outline had remarkable effectiveness in many InterVarsity chapters in Florida.
“I think this gospel outline is in the sweet spot of what they’ve been learning about missions,” he said. “The gospel is for individuals to receive forgiveness of sins, but it’s also about God redeeming the whole world. The combination of values of justice and evangelism fit well.”
As far as the future for the “Fools for Christ” Harvest initiative, the Southeast region plans to do it again, with improvements. “My hope would be that we can build on this next year,” Bruce said.
Arthur Lewis is a Campus Staff Member at Eastern Kentucky University
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